Spaced sessions of avoidance extinction reduce spontaneous recovery and promote infralimbic cortex activation

Carles Tapias-Espinosa, Elisabet Kádár, Pilar Segura-Torres*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Extinction-based therapies (EBT) are the psychological treatments of choice for certain anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some patients relapse and suffer spontaneous recovery (SR) of anxiety symptoms and persistence of avoidance behaviour, which underlines the need for improving EBT. In rats, recent evidence has highlighted the relevance of the temporal distribution of extinction sessions in reducing SR of auditory fear conditioning, although it has seldom been studied in procedures involving proactive avoidance responses, such as two-way active avoidance conditioning (TWAA). We examined whether the temporal distribution of two extinction sessions separated by 24 h or 7 days (contiguous versus spaced extinction paradigms, respectively), influences SR after 28 days of a TWAA task. c-Fos expression, as a marker of neuronal activation, was also measured by immunohistochemistry 90 min after the SR test in the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex. The temporal distribution of extinction sessions did not affect the degree of extinction learning. However, only the rats that underwent the 7-day spaced extinction paradigm maintained the level of extinction in the long term, showing no SR in TWAA. This behavioural finding was consistent with a greater number of c-Fos-labelled neurons in the infralimbic cortex in the 7-day group, and in the Lateral and Central nuclei of the amygdala in the 24-hour group. These findings show that a time-spaced extinction paradigm reduces the spontaneous recovery of active avoidance behaviour, and that this behavioural advantage appears to be related to the activation of the infralimbic cortex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018


  • Amygdala
  • Infralimbic cortex
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Temporal distribution of extinction sessions
  • Two-way active avoidance extinction
  • c-Fos


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